What are you listening to? Fear or Faith?

When I was a little girl, my dad would tell us a story about Red Eyes and Bloody Bones. This story would often be told around a campfire or as we navigated the hills and curves of country roads at night. I recall the angst one night as he turned off the car’s headlights at just the right time, so we could see the taillights of another vehicle a half mile up the road. The story can still make me squirm, and I know it’s make-believe!

One night, when my children were old enough, they too were introduced to this scary tale during a slumber party at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. My son knew it was just a pretend story, he remained strong and courageous throughout the tale. My daughter, however, was fearful. Why did their reactions differ? My daughter let her imagination run wild, losing all sight of the fact it was a made-up story.

Some of our fear and anxiety is natural and appropriate, rational. For example, our fears can keep us safe when danger is present. We may experience fear when doing something outside of our comfort zone. While irrational fears, like my daughter’s runaway imagination. It’s a fear held in the future that can grip us so tight that movement forward is nearly impossible.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often moved forward afraid. I may be putting one foot in front of the other, but there was a whole heap of fear behind it. Forcing myself to go, full of doubt and questioning. The story I was telling myself, and believing, lacked all confidence and faith. Faith in God, others or myself.

Currently, I’m reading Louie Giglio’s book “Goliath Must Fall”. (Just a short way in, but I highly recommend it!) In his book Louie says, “The antidote to fear is faith. And the soundtrack of faith, is worship.” (pg.59) That statement is truth.

A couple weeks ago, our daughter was very sick. At the peak of her illness, I began to let fear grip my heart. And having the two girls alone together, who’s imaginations tend to run wild, was not exactly the best thing. Let me tell you, I’m embarrassed to say I went to a dark place real quick. But in an effort to calm her, I turned on some worship music. It changed the atmosphere. Prayer and worship washed over my heart too. We were both able to wrangle ourselves from the grip of fear, and into a place of faith and trust in God. We were both reminded that we are beloved daughters of The Healer.

We can choose to live in fear from so much in this fallen world. Especially when it’s hard to wrap our brains and hearts around the atrocities of school shootings, the seemingly unfair death of loved ones, and rampant addiction. It’s hard when we feel helpless, or hopeless, but we are not. We can choose to worship, playing the soundtrack of faith. We can choose to trust God’s sovereignty over all, and walk in faith. We can choose to be a light to those around us, sharing the love of God in the simplest form of a smile, acknowledging to others that they are seen.

What soundtrack are you listening to right now? Is it one of fear filled with lies, or is if one of faith and worship?

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“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 (ESV) Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash
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Exercising opportunity, rather than my excuses

Over the past few months, I’ve been putting a higher priority on exercise. It’s not some New Year’s resolution that started early, or an attempt to lose weight. It was a desire for my body to feel more energetic and healthy. In the process of writing a Bible study over the past 18 months, I’ve set in a chair for hours on end! It’s not something I’ve ever been used to. And my body was feeling the effects.

It started with a few minutes on the elliptical at the YMCA, and maybe walk a few laps on the track afterwards. That first day, I was toast after 15 minutes on that machine. And I was embarrassed. Not due to judgmental looks of others, but my own realization to how out of shape I had gotten.

After a few weeks of hit-and-miss workouts, I decided to run a little after the elliptical. It felt so good. To stretch out my legs and find a rhythm, even if it didn’t last long.

This past Sunday, after a little nap, I woke up to a text from a dear friend. She had gone for a run. We’ve been holding one another accountable, and I felt the encouragement to not sit idle on the couch after my nap. So – the shoes went on and out the door I went. While on this particular jog, a few things really stuck out to me…

Excuses. “I woke up Sunday morning, still feeling ‘off’. I’m still not feeling 100%. But it’s Sunday, a day of rest! I wasn’t planning to run today.” Excuses. Reasons are not going to get the results I desire – a healthy body that feels good. And there is no way to get around excuses, but to put forth the effort with a ‘want to’. Wanting the results more than wanting (or living with) excuses.

Comparison. This 39-year-old mom, is not a 17-year-old cross country athlete any more. It is unfair to compare my body, and what it can do today, to my body 20+ years ago. It was exciting to have the realization that I was running again. (With no expectation attached.) It was a relief to know that it’s okay for me to not be able to run 8 miles without a hitch, and be gratefully proud of the 2 miles I was pushing so hard for now. Accepting myself, right where I am today, was powerful. Knowing that it’s not a competition between the 17 and 39-year-old, was a gift. It was about being the best reflection of who God created, in that moment. Letting go of that comparison, was freeing.

Opportunity. With warmer temps, I ran outdoors. (Self-proclaimed cold-weather-weenie.) I could have chosen to live with the reasons and sit on the couch all afternoon, but I chose to run. Had I not made that choice, I would have missed an incredible opportunity with the Lord and His creations. As I crested a large hill, and felt the urge to walk, but encouragement came. I witnessed an eagle hunting in a field, just a few yards away. It was magnificent. With some holy experiences, the details are meant to be kept to ourselves. This was one of them. Had I not gotten up off that couch and taken a step, it’s likely this encounter with God would have been missed.

I do not wish to live with my excuses and self-comparison. Instead, it is my desire to live in the opportunity to experience encounters with others and Creation. We can choose results over our reasons. What’s holding you back? What is one step could you take, today?

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“He gives strength to the faint
and strengthens the powerless.
Youths may become faint and weary,
and young men stumble and fall,
but those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not become weary,
they will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31 (CSB)  Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

 

Posture

When I was a kid, my mom would often correct my posture. I must have been walking hunched over, because most of those memories of her comments take place as we walk across a parking lot. As a kid, it was just annoying. As an adult, I know it’s important and can affect my whole body. The posture of our body can also speak volumes to others, body language. Crossed arms over my chest, and I’m probably not being very open to what others are saying.

I know posture is important, and I know that it can tell a lot about a person. What then, is my posture to the Lord? That internal posture. Am I closed off and withheld, arms crossed in defiance or anger? Am I soft and moldable, or dry and brittle? Am I open and available?

I’m learning that when I feel as though God is far away, I am not posturing myself towards him. I’m not leaning in, or doing so with a hard and reluctant heart. Scripture has hints tucked within, addressing posture towards our Creator.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Psalm 81:10 (ESV, emphasis added)

That’s a promise; open wide! “For He has satisfied the thirsty and filled the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107:9 (HCSB)

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as a for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5 (ESV, emphasis added)

I’ve found that receiving words (Prov. 2:1), comes with open attentive ears and willing hands to receive what’s being given. It may sound funny to have open ears – my kids would argue their ears are always open. But I beg to differ. I know there has been more than one occasion when I ignored that inner voice, Holy Spirit, nudging me along.

An inclined heart (Prov. 2:2). Here, the Hebrew word for inclined is nâtâh and it means to stretch or spread out.[i] The way I understand this, as it relates to posturing myself, is being able to take my heart and spread it out before the Lord. Vulnerably stretching it out for him, through prayer and scripture. Leaning in to Him with a heart that is willing to hear, heal and grow. Nâtâh my heart.

With a heart stretched out, I must also keep my eyes open. Seeking and searching. And like the promise in Psalm 51 with an open mouth, Proverbs 2:1-5 carries one too. Posturing our hearts, with an attentive and open ear allows room for understanding the fear of the Lord, and knowledge of God.

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“Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast sure love for David.” Isaiah 55:3 (ESV)  Photo by Natalie Collins on Unsplash

Posturing myself towards Him not only requires a willing spirit, it requires trust. Am I willing to trust the Father with a surrendered heart, open and stretched out? Posturing myself towards Him, am I willing to receive what He has? 

I want to encourage you to take some time – What is our posture towards the Lord? Keep your eyes attentive to what scripture says about our posture towards Him. Softened hearts, stiff necks (which is not so great), and listening (or not listening) ears are tucked into all of scripture. I’m convinced that the Lord speaks to His children, He is the good shepherd (John 10). Are you postured to hear and see him?

 

[i] A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 2, p. 78). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Glory Beheld, Glory Given

What do you think about when you hear the word ‘glory’? What about ‘God’s glory’?

Really. Take a minute – What do you think of?

Glory can carry a sense of renown or fame, praise and worship, brightness and splendor. That’s a broad range. Glory can be used to describe God, but also to worship Him in the sense of giving Him glory.

In the Old Testament, God’s glory appeared to the Israelites on their journey in the wilderness (Exodus 16:10) and in a devouring fire upon Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:16). In the New Testament, God’s glory shone as the shepherds received word of the King’s birth (Luke 2:9). Jesus was also described as being God’s glory in the flesh, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Just as God’s glory appeared to the Israelites, I believe it can be seen today – every day. When the sun rises and sets, painting the sky with irreplaceable beauty. I believe it’s an expression of God’s glory. “You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” Psalm 65:8.

There’s something about God’s glory that intrigues me. Perhaps it’s because, for me, glory seems to be something that’s impossible to grasp and fully understand. It’s something that can be seen, but challenging to embody with just words. It can’t be contained, except by one – The Lord. He is glory.

But not only are we able to witness God’s glory, we are also meant give God Glory. “Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory! Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory! Rise and shine and, give God the glory, glory, children of the Lord!” I’m guessing by the second exclamation mark, you were singing. Do you remember this song from your childhood? (If not it’s okay, a quick google search will get you there.) More than just a children’s song, it’s what we are created to do.

“I will say to the north, give up, and to the south, do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:6-7

Even the heavenly hosts give glory to God. In Luke 2:13-14 the heavenly hosts shout and reveal God’s glory, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”

Glory is something to behold and witness; and glory is something to give away, to God.

Praise is powerful, and just like the heavenly host it’s one way we can give God glory. How might you behold and give glory to God this day? It doesn’t have to sound like a chorus of angels, what matters is where that glory is directed. Rise and shine!

Lord, how may I glorify you today?

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 “You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” Psalm 65:8.  Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash

 

 

 

A Surrendered Sheep & Shepherd

For five years now, around the New Year upon request, the Lord has given me a word or phrase to focus on. I’m not legalistic about it, just attentive to the possibility of a word from Him. However, each year it becomes something that really guides and directs me, and usually it becomes pretty obvious why.

For example, one year it was the word ‘steward’ or ‘stewardship’. There were multiple possibilities and focuses as to what I was ‘stewarding’, such as family and relationships, work, our farm, etc. But in a major hardship that year, it became obvious as to why that word would be my guide. I was learning to steward something that wasn’t mine. I had to trust God, be obedient, and then let go.

Over the course of several challenging months, I chose to ask God, “Would you help me to steward this (situation) well, Lord? I need you to guide me.” No matter what the outcome, I desired to keep watch over what He had entrusted to me. I was a sheep asking her Shepherd, to help her be a shepherd.

It’s an interesting thought, to be both sheep and shepherd. We are all following someone else, as a sheep would. In the same respect, we all have someone following us, which puts us in the position of being a shepherd. Clear as mud?

Our Messiah, Jesus, is a perfect example for us. He is both the spotless lamb (1 Peter 1:19) following the will of our Father, and our shepherd (John 10:1-18).

In order to be a sheep we put ourselves under the authority of another, for example – God. As a sheep, I listen for the voice of my shepherd and trust his leading. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3) If I don’t listen, I’ll for sure get lost and start listening to something or someone else.

As a shepherd, I don’t wish to lead people astray. It’s being intentional and honoring with what God has entrusted to me. Therefore, I must be attuned and listening to God, aware and purposeful.

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“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3) Photo by Pawan Sharma on Unsplash

This year, my word has an associated phrase – surrender (to God), and give Him glory. At first I didn’t think they were so closely tied together. They seemed like two separate, yet semi-related ideas. Over the past several weeks, I’ve been on a mental journey in respect to surrender. The glory bit came latter. I’m looking forward to more understanding as to how they fit together.

At first, I tried to shake-off this word ‘surrender’. Who wants that one?! How about joy, gratitude, or maybe even patience. Patience is at least a fruit of the Spirit! (Galatians 5:22) But I’m grateful for this challenge. After wrestling with ‘surrender’ for a few weeks (that’s a funny thought), I’m finding this act increases comfort and trust in God. I’m discovering that surrender requires a lot of letting go, and while uncomfortable, it feels good. There is also a beginning realization that by surrendering, it allows room to bring God glory.

How about you? Is God placing something on your heart right now? Something to focus on, guiding you through this season or this year?

With Gratitude, Amy

Hidden and Seen

Scripture is full of paradoxes, things that don’t seem to fit together in our human understanding. Like the Savior of the world, coming in the form of a baby born in a manger. Another example being in Matthew 14: 11 when Jesus states, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

One of our deepest human desires is to be seen and known by others. Yet sometimes, the first thing we do is run and hide. I desire to converse with friends and family at a gathering, having relationship, yet when I walk into the room I feel awkward and shrink away – hiding. Meet my frequent, internal and paradoxical wrestling.

Adam and Eve, after sinning, hid from God. I’m guessing that they had a desire to continue relationship with Him, but hid in shame. (Genesis 3:8) We desire to be seen by others and known, yet hide.

We hide in sin, embarrassment, uneasiness, judgment. We hide from situations, others, and ourselves. We hide from El Roi, the God Who Sees. (Genesis 16:13) In truth, with all of those things mentioned, it would make more sense to go to the Creator in full disclosure and repentance if necessary. It would make more sense to dispel the darkness (hiding), and step into the Light (being known in relationship).

Over the past few months, the word ‘surrender’ has been very present in thought. I’m learning that one of the pieces of being surrendered, is not withholding myself from God – hiding. It’s impossible to completely hide from El Roi, though I try to do a good job. In reality I’m not really hiding, but rather withholding relationship. Withholding a completely surrendered heart, willing to be held and seen by the One who created me. When I’m not surrendered, I’m not posturing myself to God’s will. It’s harder, dare I say impossible, to fully trust when my heart and mind are withholding and hiding thoughts from El Roi.

Who am I hiding from? What am I hiding? Why?

It can be scary to be known and seen. But the truth is that I don’t desire to hide from God; He sees me anyway. (I may desire to hide from others, but not God.) He sees the real me, the one he fashioned in the secret and hidden. The one He brought into the light, to be seen and known. My desire is to be fully known (seen), living freely in and with Him.

Would it change if we knew who God is? His character? Would it be easier to trust Him, and fully surrender a heart and life to Him?

He is good. He is love. He is light and life and just. God is accepting of the true me, uglies and all. God is safety and protection. I can surrender and open up to that. How about you? And when we do – we can be both hidden in Him, and seen by Him.

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“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1 (ESV)

In that hidden place, what are you willing to surrender to God? What are you willing to trust Him with seeing? You don’t have to fully comment here – but are you with me?

 

 

Marinate In Jesus

On a recent Sunday night, steak was on the menu for supper. Thinking that it was supposed to marinate over night instead of a just a couple hours, I prepped the ingredients and decided to set it all together in the fridge. But, at 5:00 p.m. Sunday evening, I realized a vitally important step was skipped. We got busy doing other things and I forgot to put the steaks in the marinade. Whoops.

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It wasn’t the end of the world, we’re used to eating late – no big deal. But it got me thinking. As those steaks just sat next to the marinade, they weren’t able to pick up any of the flavor prepared for them. In Matthew 5:13, Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” (ESV) I may be taking this verse a little out of context, but it came popping into my mind. In order to be the salt, seasoned and flavorful, we have to get in the marinade! Soaking-in the Lord.

 

We can attend church all our life or go to conferences all over this country, but unless we really dive-in to God’s word and soak in His presence on our own – we’re just like those steaks, sitting next to the marinade. It’s hard to soak up the flavor of God’s love, if we’re just getting a “talking-to” once a week. And that spiritual-high from a conference, it doesn’t usually carry us all the way through the wilderness wanderings or fiery trials. What really carries us, is a personal relationship with our Creator. That is developed over time and personal commitment, spending time in prayer and worship, being devoted to His word for you. It’s being willing to change, be refined, and learn who God is.

The next part of that verse in Matthew 5 goes on to tell of a light under a bushel basket, and letting your light shine before others for the glory of God. (Matt. 5:14-16) Whatever we are flavored with, is what will shine through to others. Just like those steaks, the saltiness and seasoning in the marinade is what’s meant to come through. (I burned them on the grill by the way…it just wasn’t my day to fix steak.)

At 5:05 p.m., I put those steaks in to marinate, and closed the refrigerator door on them for nearly two hours. Matthew 6:6 encourages us, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (ESV)

In secret, that’s where some serious soaking can occur. Don’t mistake me, I love the cooperate church body, there is no substitute for a healthy body of believers working together. But there is also no substitute for that personal, secret time with Jesus.

What are you soaking in?

How do you “marinate” and soak-in God?

IMG_6068My guess is, that just like my marinade with various ingredients – that’s what it might look like for you. Worship + Scripture + Prayer + Fellowship for good measure. Whatever the recipe is, that’s between you and the Lord. But let’s not wait and then rush at the last minute, when the grill is fired up (testing & trials). My challenge to you, today, is to not let your relationship with our Creator be an afterthought. No time spent on the Lord is wasted, especially that secret time. He is the Redeemer of all.